Bad Tripp -- A Review of 1998


By Dave Barry, The Miami Herald, December 27, 1998


Last year, when I wrote my annual Year in Review, I looked at the events
of 1997 -- in which the two most culturally significant events both
involved famous men biting people -- and I concluded that there could
not possibly ever again be a year as pathetic as that one.

Boy, was I a moron.

I'm not saying that 1998 was ALL bad.  There were some moments that made
us feel good about ourselves.  Mark McGwire hitting that 62nd home run
was certainly one such moment.  And then there was... Let's see... OK,
how about Mark McGwire hitting that 63rd home run?  THAT certainly made
us feel good about ourselves!

In fact, if we had any brains at all, as a nation, we would have
demanded that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa be allowed to continue hitting
home runs right on through December.  Because they were pretty much the
lone highlight in a year that otherwise made us feel, as a nation, as
though we were living in a gigantic unflushed commode.

The main reason why we felt bad about ourselves, of course, was the
story that totally dominated the news of 1998 -- the story that at first
fascinated us, but that was hyped and hammered on so relentlessly by the
shrieking, hysterical, obsessive news media that we finally just wished
it would for God's sake GO AWAY so we could get on with our lives.  I am
referring, of course, to the last episode of Seinfeld.

Also of course there was the pathetic mess in Washington, which has
dragged the national consciousness down to a level where it is now
virtually impossible for us not to snicker whenever we hear certain
words, such as "intern," and "cigar," and "President of the United
States."

You have to feel bad about the way the year turned out for Bill
Clinton.  I mean, here is a guy who really, really, REALLY wanted to
take his place in history alongside the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and
Harry Truman, and instead he winds up looking more like Pee Wee Herman,
but with less dignity.

Not that I am being critical of the President.  I am sick and tired of
all the hypocrisy surrounding this whole thing.  I mean, who among us
has never made a mistake?  Can you, honestly, look at yourself in the
mirror and swear that you never, in your entire life, had repeated sex
with an intern in the White House and then committed perjury and then
sent the secretary of state out to lie on your behalf?

Of course not.  Because we are no better than President Pee Wee.  Deep
down inside, all of us, with the possible exception of Sen. Orrin Hatch,
are human beings.  And that means that we are creatures of weakness.
But it also means that we are creatures of hope.  And that is why I am
hoping, in all sincerity, that you have a barf bag handy as I begin my
review of the year we just went through, starting with...

JANUARY

...which begins on an upbeat note.  The economy is sizzling, and
millions of small investors, overcoming their fear of getting burned in
the stock market, are being lured by the siren call of Wall Street.

"Here little investor!" calls Wall Street. "Don't be afraid!  C'mon
boy!  Here li'l 'vestor 'vestor 'vestor!"

But while ordinary Americans are withdrawing their life savings and
selling their extra kidneys to plunge deeper into the stock market,
ominous clouds begin to appear on the world financial horizon,
particularly in Asia, where the financial community is troubled by the
news that Japanese banks have invested $17 billion in the New York State
lottery.

The year starts to go downhill in mid-January when word leaks out of a
shocking development in the ongoing investigation by special prosecutor
Kenneth Starr, who has by this point traced the Whitewater scandal back
to the administration of William Howard Taft.  News reports leak out
that a woman named Linda Tripp has provided Starr's office with
compelling evidence that she has her hair styled by angry weasels.  Also
she has reportedly recorded telephone conversations with a former White
House intern named Monica Lewinsky who claims that, for a period of
nearly two years, she repeatedly worked on the President's staff.

These reports set off a media frenzy of an intensity not seen in the
United States since the heady, historic days of the Marv Albert trial.
Many TV news outlets go to a round-the-clock, all-Monica-all-the-time
format in which the clip of Monica embracing Bill at a rally is shown
750 times per hour, interspersed with analysis by former prosecutors who
have apparently been hanging around the studios, makeup on, ready to
analyze something, ever since the O.J. trial.  These analysts have
virtually no actual information, so much of their analysis sounds like
this:

FIRST FORMER PROSECUTOR:  That definitely looks like a warm embrace to
me.  I would say verging on intimate.

SECOND FORMER PROSECUTOR:  I would call it more of a friendly embrace.
And bear in mind that I have a lot more experience as a former
prosecutor than you.

FIRST FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Oh yeah?  I was a former prosecutor when you
were in kneepants.

SECOND FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Like hell you were!  I've been a former
prosecutor so long that I can't even remember ever prosecuting anybody.

White House spokespersons are quick to respond to the new allegations,
pointing out that the Lewinsky scandal is a distraction that makes it
difficult for the President and his advisers to carry on the important
work of responding to all the older allegations.  But the President
himself is less than convincing at first.  When directly asked, if he
had an affair with Lewinsky, he replies:  "Yes.  I mean, no!"

But by the end of the week, the President has developed a
more-convincing denial.  At the end of a White House ceremony, he puts
on a frowny face, shakes his finger at the camera and declares, "I did
not have a sexual relationship with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, or any of
the dozens of other women who haven't come forward yet."

As the scandal deepens, Congressional Republicans, hardly able to
believe the incredible political gift that Clinton has handed to them,
hold intensive strategy sessions to figure out how they can blow it.
Meanwhile, the actual members of the public quickly lose interest in the
scandal, choosing instead to spend the month of January in movie
theaters weeping as Leonardo DiCaprio is tragically transformed into The
Human Popsicle in the blockbuster movie Titanic.

In other January political developments, the Clintons get a dog, which
they name "Buddy," and which immediately endears itself to the nation by
eating several major policy initiatives.

On the adventure front, yet another rich guy attempts to go all the way
around the world in a balloon and crashes after setting a new
rich-guy-trying-to-go-around-the-a-balloon record of nearly seven
miles.  Meanwhile, the trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski
gets off to a rough start when he attempts to fire his lawyers because
they want to claim -- Get this! -- that he is insane.  This makes Ted so
mad that he tries to hang himself.  Eventually a compromise is worked
out under which the lawyers will claim that it is not Ted who is insane;
it is Ted's invisible friend "Mister Pootyman" who is insane.

The beat stops for Sonny Bono.

In Miami, Xavier Suarez, who has been elected mayor with the help of a
powerful voter coalition of nonresidents and dead people, hits the
ground running with a solid, practical program designed to transform
Miami from a financial disaster area into a financial disaster area
being run by a space cadet.  In the ongoing Operation Greenpalm scandal,
78 percent of Biscayne Bay is stolen.

In international news, Pope John Paul II makes a historic visit to Cuba,
where he delivers his message of hope to hundreds of thousands of the
faithful, who unfortunately cannot hear a word he says because of the
noise of jets rushing American network TV news anchors back to the
United States to report on Monica Lewinsky.

In sports, Disney pays an almost-unbelievable $9.2 billion for the
rights to broadcast NFL games.  In the Super Bowl, the Denver Donald
Ducks defeat the Green Bay Goofys.

And speaking of goofy, in...

FEBRUARY

...the burgeoning national sex scandal worsens when word leaks out that,
after she left the White House, Monica Lewinsky was apparently given an
unusual amount of high-level help in her search for a job.  A White
House spokesperson vehemently denies this charge, insisting that
"literally hundreds of other former White House interns were also
offered the opportunity to pilot the Space Shuttle."  Meanwhile, Clinton
allies begin to mount a counteroffensive by taking the restraining
device off James Carville and sending him around the TV talk shows to
get out the message that other U.S. presidents, including John F.
Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, also had sex
with Monica Lewinsky.

On the housing front, California starts an innovative new program that
involves building expensive new homes on cliffs and then immediately
shoving them down the slopes and covering them with mud, so that
homeowners do not have to spend anxious weeks waiting for this to happen
naturally.

Henny Youngman, with perfect timing, delivers his final punchline.

Meanwhile, things are heating up in the Middle East, specifically Iraq,
where suspicions are aroused that Iraq might be manufacturing illegal
weapons of mass destruction when U.N. weapons inspectors spot Saddam
Hussein at a building dedication ceremony cutting a ribbon and stating,
"I hereby declare this factory for making illegal weapons of mass
destruction open!"

President Clinton, eager to draw attention away from the Monica Lewinsky
scandal, immediately begins bustling around to a series of high-profile
strategy meetings with his pants clearly zipped all the way up.  The
United States is getting ready to send bombers over Iraq to crush
Saddam, squash him like a bug, banish him forever, just like we did the
last eight or nine times that he acted up.  Finally, at the last minute,
Saddam agrees to a settlement when United Nations Secretary General Kofi
Annan, in a lengthy all-night bargaining session, convinces the Iraqi
dictator that the letters in "Kofi Annan" can be rearranged to spell "An
Oink Fan."

In other international news, the Asian economic crisis continues to
worsen with the discovery by the International Monetary Fund that
Malaysian banks have spent $27 billion on phone sex.  None of this
causes any concern in the United States, where small investors continue
to be lured by the siren song of Wall Street.

"Have some candy, li'l 'vestors!" says Wall Street.

On the sports scene, the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, draws a U.S.
television viewing audience estimated at 7 people.  Nevertheless the
games produce some memorable moments, most notably the finals of a new
demonstration sport, Sumo Wrestler Ski Jumping, which is won by
600-pound Takumato "The Blowfish" Matakanaka with a record leap of
nearly one meter.  Nineteen spectators are killed in the resulting
avalanche.

Elsewhere in sports, baseball spring training begins with the World
Champion Florida Marlins unveiling their salary-reduced 1998 team, led
by rookie pitcher Jason Phompitt, who is hailed by Manager Jim Leyland
as "one of the hardest-throwing sixth graders I've ever seen."  Also
expected to make the starting rotation is veteran pitcher Raoul "El
Moco" Carambas, who played for 38 years on the Cuban national team
before escaping to the United States with the aid of "Papo," his
seeing-eye dog.

On the legal front, Oprah Winfrey successfully defends herself against a
lawsuit brought by Texas cattlemen angered by an Oprah show in which
beef was linked to "Mad Cow" disease.  Enraged by the verdict, the
cattlemen go on a rampage, bellowing, snorting, knocking over furniture
and pooping all over the courtroom.

Speaking of crazy, in...

MARCH

...suspicion grows that Saddam Hussein may be violating the terms of the
latest weapons agreement when a team of U.N. inspectors, having
requested permission to view a suspected chemical-weapons facility in
Baghdad, is escorted by Iraqi officials to what is later determined, by
computer-assisted intelligence analysis, to be a Dairy Queen in Danbury,
Conn.  Outraged, U.N. representatives from 217 nations overwhelmingly
approve a statement declaring that they will "continue eating at
expensive Manhattan restaurants."

In other alarming news, astronomers announce that they have detected a
large meteor that could strike the Earth in the year 2028, killing as
many as 1.5 billion people.  Responding swiftly, the U.S. Department of
Transportation orders that Earth be equipped with "a really big air
bag."

Meanwhile, the national sex scandal worsens as former White House aide
Kathleen Willey tells 60 Minutes that when she went to the Oval Office
seeking job help, the President made an aggressive effort to feel her
pain.  The White House denies this allegation, issuing a statement
asserting that "the President has nothing but the greatest respect for
Mrs. Willey, who by the way is a deranged slut."  With his domestic
troubles mounting, the President leaves for Africa, where he engages in
a series of important, high-level photo opportunities and successfully
negotiates the acquisition of several historic souvenirs.

In other scandal news, the ongoing Whitewater investigation is dealt a
severe blow with the death of James McDougal, believed to be the last
surviving human being with any clue as to what "Whitewater" is.  After a
private funeral, McDougal is laid to rest, then is immediately dug up by
Kenneth Starr for further questioning.

On the weather front, a tornado rips through northern Oklahoma and, in
what the National Weather Service describes as a "one in a million
chance," fails to hit a trailer park.

Dr. Spock makes a house call on St. Peter.

In Miami, a federal court invalidates all the absentee ballots cast in
the mayoral race between Xavier Suarez and Joe Carollo, removes Suarez
from office and -- in a ruling that shakes up the local political scene
-- declares that the city's mayor is Manuel Noriega.

In automotive news, Volkswagen introduces the New Beetle, which
nostalgically evokes the mood of the '60s via the classic "bug" shape
and various touches such as a flower vase, an eight-track player with a
"Moby Grape" tape permanently jammed into it, and a Baggie containing
seeds and stems under the front seat.  But the big product announcement
is the anti-impotence drug Viagra, which is finally approved by the
federal government following the delivery of what is described as a
"courtesy trial sample," consisting of seven tons of the blue pills, to
the home of influential Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-Deceased).  Viagra is an
immediate sensation, both in pill form and as an additive to the water
supply in retirement communities.  This causes the U.S. economy to
thrust upward like a great big turgid member of the international
financial community, which in turn causes still more small investors to
jump into the stock market, ignoring the ominous economic news from
abroad, especially Russia, where the gross national product has shrunk
to 35.7 billion rubles, which, in U.S. money, comes to $20.38. And
speaking of economics, in...

APRIL

...the Historic Tobacco Agreement of 1997 collapses when it is
discovered that there is still one American lawyer, believed to be
located in North Dakota, who is not going to get any money out of it.
Reacting to the news, an angry President Clinton vows to "continue the
fight against the tobacco industry's immoral and unconscionable efforts
to get our young people to smoke tobacco products or chew them or insert
them into ... never mind."

Speaking of sex, the White House gets some good news when a federal
judge throws out the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit on the
grounds that, quote, "her nose looks totally different."  In other
scandal news, Kenneth Starr grills First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for
five hours in front of a grand jury, but is unable to link her to a
series of convenience-store robberies in Newark, N.J.

Abroad, suspicions continue to mount when U.N. weapons inspectors
discover Iraqi soldiers hastily painting the words "NOT A" on a building
sign in front of the words "WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION FACTORY."  In
their report to the U.N., the inspection team notes that a chemical
analysis reveals that "it was not even the same color of paint."

On the science front, a celestial mystery is finally solved when NASA
reports that photographs sent back by the Mars Global Surveyor show that
the giant "face" that many UFO believers imagined that they saw on
earlier photographs of the Red Planet is not a face at all.  "In fact,"
states a NASA spokesperson, "it's simply an optical illusion caused by
the way the sun's light reflects off a large fleet of alien warships
from the Planet Xarnon."

Linda McCartney takes wing. Pol Pot goes to Hell.

The U.S. economy continues to boom as Citicorp and the Travelers Group
join together in the biggest merger in world history to form
CitiTravelCorp, which then turns around and has an even bigger merger
with NationsBank, which has just merged with BankAmerica, the result
being a company called CitiTravelNationsBankAmeriCorp, which has more
vice presidents than the population of Belgium and is expected to spend
$23 billion just getting its voicemail to work.  This news sends the Dow
Jones over the 9,000 mark; Wall Street experts predict that it will keep
going up forever and small investors will all have polo ponies and
helicopter-equipped yachts.  Meanwhile, the Asian economic crisis
worsens with the announcement that Taiwan left 350 trillion yuan in the
glove compartment and went to do some errands, then returned to find
that the money was gone.

On the local economic scene, the Knight-Ridder Corp., in a major
financial move, announces that it will spend millions and millions of
dollars to move its corporate headquarters to San Jose, so that it will
be physically closer to the world of "high-tech."  Apparently, nobody
has told Knight-Ridder about a new gadget called the "telephone."

In Las Vegas, a huge crowd gathers to watch as the famous Aladdin Casino
crumbles to the ground in a massive dynamite blast set off by demolition
experts, who then have a hearty laugh at their own expense when informed
that they were actually supposed to have demolished the historic
Caesar's Palace Casino.  And speaking of mistakes, in...

MAY

...Special Sex Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, becoming increasingly excited
as he senses that he is nearing the climax of his investigation,
accidentally subpoenas himself.  Meanwhile, President Clinton, in his
ongoing effort to look presidential, flies to Sweden, Norway and Latvia
in a historic whirlwind effort to find somebody to meet with.  In other
foreign news, Israel observes its 50th birthday and invites the
neighbors over for a party, which ends in gunfire during a game of
"Capture the Flag."  Meanwhile, riots break out in Indonesia, even
though nobody knows exactly where that is.

But the scariest international news comes from India, which shocks the
world by setting off three underground nuclear blasts.  The U.S.
government received no warning from the CIA, which apparently did not
notice India's preparations; however the intelligence agency quickly
regroups and, within hours, is able to provide the President with a
top-secret report revealing that India is "a country located in either
Asia or Spain."

Fears that India's action will trigger a new arms race are soon realized
when, 17 days later, India's archenemy Pakistan sets off a nuclear
device of its own; and then a few days after that, Earl A. Crablick of
East Orange, N.J., who according to neighbors "doesn't get along with
anybody," sets off HIS nuclear device.

On the domestic front, the federal government discovers that, for the
first time in years, it will have a surplus of $39 billion.  After a
heated debate over whether the surplus should be used to safeguard
Social Security or reduce taxes, Congress settles on a compromise plan
under which half the money will be wasted on bloated pork projects, and
so will the other half.

In a related story, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles
Rossotti, testifying before a Senate committee investigating IRS abuses
against citizens, apologizes to the public and vows to reign in
overzealous agents.  Hours later, his lifeless body is found under an
estimated four tons of brochures titled "Your Taxpayer Rights."
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration orders 15 percent of the
nation's commercial 737 aircraft grounded after an inspection reveals
that, due to a design defect, many of the aging planes have only one
wing.

In finance, CitiTravelNationsBankAmeriCorp merges with
TransWorldComGroup to form TransCitiTravelWorldNationsBankComCorp, which
promises that within 18 months it will have "a lobby the size of the
Gobi desert."  The stock market tops 15,000, despite continuing economic
problems in Asia, particularly Singapore, which shows up outside the
World Bank, drunk and shoeless, hassling bank employees for "$47
billion, $23 billion, whatever you can spare."

On the automotive scene, Rolls Royce become the latest car manufacturer
to enter the fast-growing luxury Sports Utility Vehicle field with the
EstateWhacker, which features a rack on the roof to carry an emergency
spare chauffeur.

Frank Sinatra retires for the last time; Bebe rejoins his old pal Dick;
Phil Hartman exits prematurely; Marjory Stoneman Douglas goes to that
big wetlands preserve in the sky.

Hundreds of millions of TV viewers tune in to the intensively hyped
final episode of Seinfeld, which features guest appearances by Keith
Hernandez, Yoko Ono, Stephen Hawking, the Pope, the Rockettes, Beethoven
and Harry Truman.  Anticipation reaches a fever pitch as the show
approaches its carefully guarded secret ending, which -- in a twist that
few predicted -- is subpoenaed by Kenneth Starr.

In other legal affairs, after hearing lengthy and often heated arguments
from lawyers for New Jersey and New York in the long-running dispute
over which state actually owns Ellis Island, the Supreme Court rules, in
a Solomonic decision, that the historic immigrant gateway belongs to:
Finland.

And in yet another indication of the declining educational standards,
the National Spelling Bee is won in a record four minutes by 11-year-old
Tracy Plackett, the only contestant not stumped by "car."  And speaking
of declining standards, the big story in...

JUNE

...is the visit by President Clinton to China.  Although the President
is unable to get the Chinese to agree to any major concessions on human
rights, he is able to obtain what a high-level State Department source
describes as "a real nice statuette of a yak."  The dramatic highlight
of the trip comes when Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin engage
in a debate that is broadcast live on Chinese television, although this
triumph is somewhat diminished by the discovery that every one of the
President's statements was translated by the Chinese as "Yummy, yummy,
yummy, I got love in my tummy."

In other international news, suspicions regarding Saddam Hussein are
aroused still further when Iraq buys a full-page advertisement in The
New York Times stating:  "BIG SALE ON ILLEGAL WEAPONS OF MASS
DESTRUCTION!  MUST CLEAR OUT OUR OVERSTOCKED WAREHOUSES!"  Meanwhile, in
yet another blow to the international War on Drugs, the election contest
for the presidency of Colombia ends in a tie between Cheech and Chong.

In political news, the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional the "line
item veto," which is a kind of veto that is used on items relating to
lines.  Or maybe that's the hypotenuse.  Whatever the hell it is, it's
not constitutional.  In local politics, Miami Commissioner Humberto
Hernandez is sent to jail, thus ensuring his reelection.  Miami High
School is faced with forfeiture of its state high school championship
when an examination of its records shows that one of the players is
Dennis Rodman.

In finance, TransCitiTravelWorldNationsBankGroup AmeriComCorp merges
with Bob Hargrove Radiator Repair to form
TransCitiTravelWorldNationsBankGroup
AmeriComCorpBobHargroveRadiatorRepair, a move that sends the stock
market over the 15 million mark and causes many small investors to quit
their jobs and hire servants.  Meanwhile, Japan plunges into a
depression when consumers discover that a dish they've been eating for
years, called "ikura," is actually squid.  Wall Street experts insist
that the Asian crisis will have no effect on the U.S. stock market,
noting that "Asia is on a completely different whaddyacallit,
peninsula."

In sports, the Chicago Bulls, led by the seemingly inhuman Michael
Jordan, win the Stanley Cup.  Meanwhile the biggest sports tournament of
them all, the World Cup, gets under way in the host nation France, which
greets guests from all over the world with a veritable festival of work
stoppages.  But things are under control by...

JULY

...when the coveted World Cup, in a major upset, is won by the lightly
regarded team from Iraq, whose players wear gas masks and whose
opponents wind up writhing on the field, wracked by mysterious
illnesses.  Meanwhile, suspicions mount that performance-enhancing drugs
are being used in the Tour de France bicycle race when an Italian
cyclist is clocked going uphill at 138 miles per hour.

On the presidential scandal front, a federal judge deals a blow to the
Whitewater probe, tossing out an indictment against Webster Hubbell on
the grounds that "it sounds like he has two last names."  But the
special prosecutor's office wins a big round in court when it is awarded
custody of Monica Lewinsky's coveted blue cocktail dress, which,
according to a high-level source in the prosecutor's office, "looks
terrific on Ken."  And in another legal blow to Bill Clinton, Secret
Service agents, compelled by the courts to testify before the grand
jury, reveal that the President's Secret Code Name, which he thought up
himself, is "Stud One."

Meanwhile, the public's opinion of the news media, which is already
lower than the public's opinion of head lice, sinks still further when
CNN is forced to retract a story claiming that the U.S. military used
nerve gas on its own troops in Vietnam.  Around the same time, an
embarrassed Boston Globe is forced to dump two columnists suspected of
fabricating certain purportedly real characters quoted in their columns,
particularly Batman and Cecil the Sea Serpent.  The low point comes when
the Cincinnati Enquirer admits that it has no evidence to back up a
much-hyped investigative series into Chiquita Brands International,
which alleged that, according to internal corporate documents, Chiquita
Banana is actually a tangerine, and not only that, a male tangerine.

Baby Boomers experience nostalgia overload as Robert Young goes into
permanent reruns; Alan Shepard has his final splashdown; Roy Rogers
takes that Happy Trail; and Buffalo Bob finally finds out what time it
is.

As summer brings the worst heat wave in decades, scores of TV news crews
travel to the nation's heartland and send back heart-rending images of
farmers standing in their parched fields, looking forlornly at their
dried and shriveled government crop-subsidy checks.  On a happier note,
the largest lottery payoff of all time -- the $295.7 million Powerball
jackpot -- is won by a group of machinists in Ohio, much to the
widespread and sincere delight of their immediate families.  Everyone
else hates them.

On the economic front, there are more ominous signs.  Workers at General
Motors, the world's largest auto manufacturer, enter the second month of
their strike over the issue of which car name is dorkier, "Cavalier" or
"Lumina."  And the Asian economic crisis worsens still further when the
largest bank in South Korea, Dung Ho, collapses after giving $419
billion to a guy who promised to repair the bank driveway and said he
had to go get his tools and then never came back.

Nevertheless, the U.S. stock market continues to soar, with the Dow
finally hitting the 54 million mark on July 17, and the financial
experts assuring everybody that the upward trend will continue.  This
causes the last remaining small-investor holdout in the United States,
87-year-old Francine DuPlenum of Pork Meadow, Miss., to withdraw her
life savings of $1,529.07 from the bank and invest it in "growth
stocks."  The instant this transaction is entered into the Giant
Financial Conspiracy Computer, it triggers the start of a massive slide
in stock prices, accompanied by an equally massive output of statements
from financial experts informing the public that this is exactly what
they expected to happen and what goes up must come down and there is no
such thing as a free lunch.

On a more uplifting note, the cruise ship Ecstasy catches fire as it
leaves Miami, but disaster is prevented by quick-thinking passengers who
douse the flames with an estimated 300,000 gallons of pina colada,
nearly a third of the ship's supply.

And speaking of intoxicating, in...

AUGUST

...the now-legendary Monica Lewinsky testifies before the grand jury,
and in accordance with longstanding judicial traditions of fairness, her
testimony is kept totally, completely secret for an estimated 12
minutes, at which point there is massive worldwide leakage of astounding
stories involving cigars, cashew nuts, watermelons, lemurs, Shetland
ponies, etc.  By the next day, the news has reached inhabitants of
remote Amazonian rain forest villages, and the news media have gone
insane; Geraldo Rivera is changing his underwear on an hourly basis.
Meanwhile, the special prosecutor's office receives the results of a lab
analysis of the stain on Lewinsky's blue dress, which reportedly prove
conclusively that the DNA belongs to:  O.J. Simpson.

The drama reaches a climax on Aug. 17 when President Clinton testifies
before the Starr grand jury for seven hours, five hours of which are
taken up by the President's carefully worded response to the question
"What is your name?"  That night, the President makes a prime-time
address in which he finally comes clean with the nation, boldly
stating:  "Although I did not make any statement that was legally untrue
as I understood the question at that time, it is not impossible that I
was not totally forthcoming as regards to certain aspects of certain
factual occurrences that may or may not have occurred, depending on the
definitions of the words 'occur,' 'not,' and 'and.'  Kenneth Starr is
the Antichrist, so let's just put this whole thing behind us right now
and move on with the ... HEY LOOK OVER THERE!  TERRORISTS!"

Although some critics charge that the President is using the
anti-terrorist campaign to distract attention from his problems, the
White House insists that it has strong evidence to support U.S. bomb and
missile strikes against sites connected with terrorist Osama bin Laden,
whose name, the State Department points out, can be rearranged to spell
both "Nab Inseam Load" and "Dial A Man's Bone."  There is some
international criticism of the attacks, especially when one of the
bombing targets in the Sudan, identified by U.S. intelligence as a
secret chemical-weapons plant, turns out to be a Planet Hollywood.  But
upon further reflection everybody agrees this is a good thing.

In other international news, the crisis in Russia worsens when
increasingly erratic president Boris Yeltsin names, as his new prime
minister, Ed Koch.  The worldwide economy continues to slump, with U.S.
stock prices falling fast and economic experts predicting a prolonged
recession or depression featuring -- in the words of a Merrill Lynch
advisory -- "glaciers as far south as Houston."  Small investors are
advised to make suicide plans.

On a more positive economic note, the U.S. Treasury Department announces
that its new, updated version of the $20 bill will feature a portrait of
Ally McBeal.

The final curtain falls for Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop.

In South Florida, investigators probing the mayoral election announce
that, using sophisticated computerized search techniques, they have
located a man who voted in the previous Miami mayoral election and who
is not only alive, but also a legal resident of the city of Miami.  He
is arrested.

On the science front, an international conference of weather experts
concludes that the cause of global warming is enormous quantities of gas
being released when rich guys crash their balloons in attempts to fly
around the world.  Meanwhile, in a severe blow to U.S.
intelligence-gathering efforts, a top-secret, billion-dollar U.S. spy
satellite explodes spectacularly shortly after takeoff from Cape
Canaveral, spewing spies all over the place.  Secret decoder rings are
found as far away as Alabama.  And speaking of massive screwups, in...

SEPTEMBER

...the national scandal gets completely out of hand with the publication
of the Starr Report, which features explicit language and a glossy color
centerfold photo of Monica Lewinsky, who reveals in her questionnaire
that her turn-ons are "wearing thongs and formulating educational
policy."  Within days, Hollywood has plans to release the report as a
major motion picture, featuring Brad Pitt as the President and John
Goodman as Linda Tripp.

Meanwhile Congress, after a fierce debate, votes to allow the
President's videotaped grand-jury testimony to be televised, with the
majority Republicans arguing that "the American public should be allowed
to decide for themselves, fairly and objectively, without prejudice, how
big a slimebag the President is."  On the tape, the President is subdued
and tight-lipped, offering few clues about his inner feelings other than
his necktie, which has the cryptic words "HANG TOUGH, MONICA!" printed
on it.  The President's four-hour testimony includes few surprises,
except for a moment of comic relief when Kramer bursts through the door.

As the sordid details of his behavior become public, the President,
after holding a long, soul-searching session with his pollsters, decides
that he feels really bad.  One by one, he summons the leaders of all
major religious groups to his office and publicly apologizes to them for
not having, legally, done anything wrong.  He then heads for (Why not?)
Russia, where he and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin are able to take what
the White House describes as "several useful walks."

But by this point, Congress and the news media have been totally
incapacitated by Sex Scandal Mania, with Geraldo leading the way, thanks
to a highly realistic computerized simulation dubbed the "Cigar Cam."
Meanwhile, reports start to surface concerning extramarital affairs
involving various members of Congress, including House Judiciary
Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, who admits that he committed a "youthful
indiscretion" back in the 1960s, when he was approximately 57 years
old.  Within days, youthful indiscretions have been attributed to every
member of the U.S. House and Senate except Strom Thurmond, who as far as
historians can determine was never a youth.  As the nation's capital
whips itself into a raging hormonal frenzy, the American public, sensing
that a historic constitutional impeachment crisis is looming, devotes
its full attention to buying back-to-school clothes.

In nonscandal news, Florence Griffith Joyner reaches the finish line;
George Wallace ends his last campaign.

On the worldwide economic front, the gloom deepens with the announcement
that both Asia and Latin America are now completely broke and unemployed
and have temporarily moved in with Europe until they can find a cheaper
place of their own.  U.S. stock prices continue to plunge, with most
financial experts now advising small investors to "panic, sell your
stocks at a huge loss and invest the meager proceeds in jerky."

Speaking of jerks, in...

OCTOBER

...the Nevada State Athletic Commission votes to reinstate Mike Tyson's
boxing license, thus clearing the way for the long-anticipated grudge
rematch between the former heavyweight champion and actress Robin
Givens.

In other news involving archenemies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat meet with President
Clinton at the secluded Wye Plantation in rural Maryland.  After a week
of exhausting, round-the-clock meetings, the three leaders are finally
able to reach a liquor store that will deliver to their location.  After
that it takes them approximately 15 minutes to come up with a historic
peace agreement, which is rushed by military jet back to the Middle East
to be broken.

Meanwhile on the scandal front, the House of Representatives votes
unanimously to hold a "Backwards Day," during which the Republicans
argue that Bill Clinton is being unfairly hounded over petty sexual
indiscretions and the Democrats argue that he is a lying dirtbag who
cannot be trusted with a hot-dog cart, let alone the presidency.  As the
debate rages, former President Gerald Ford finally breaks his silence on
the issue of Clinton's conduct as President, stating:  "Bill Clinton is
PRESIDENT?  Since WHEN?"

In other legal matters, a dramatic chase on the Los Angeles freeways
ends when police are able to stop a white Ford Bronco containing Bill
Gates, who then keeps officers at bay for several tense hours by
threatening to release another version of Windows.  Gates is finally
apprehended and placed on trial in connection with some incomprehensible
crime involving a "browser"; he hires defense attorney Johnnie Cochran,
who mesmerizes the jury with a stirring speech that ends:  "His hair is
bad; acquit the lad!"

On the international crime front, British police arrest former Chilean
dictator Augusto Pinochet on the grounds that his name can be rearranged
to spell "I Top Eunuch Goats."  In Baghdad, U.N. weapons inspectors are
allowed to enter a building that Iraqi officials have said is a
chemical-weapons facility, only to be doused by a bucket of water
propped over the door.

Gene Autry joins Roy for a duet.

In sports, the beginning of the National Basketball Association season
is canceled when the players and owners are unable to agree on whether
the players should be allowed to wear shorts that are longer than their
actual legs.  Meanwhile, as baseball season comes to an end, President
Clinton officially celebrates the epic home-run competition between Mark
McGwire and Sammy Sosa by graciously inviting Katarina Witt to the Oval
Office.

On Wall Street, stock prices continue to sag as most small investors
swallow their losses and bail out of the market.  This is the signal for
the Federal Reserve Board to cut interest rates, sending stock prices
soaring and creating what financial experts agree is a terrific
investment opportunity.

But the most uplifting story of the month comes when the U.S. space
program launches 77-year-old John Glenn into space.  The mission costs
$2.3 billion, but Glenn receives a $56 million senior-citizen discount,
and through his experiments in orbit NASA is able to obtain invaluable
information about how weightlessness affects older people.
"Apparently," NASA reports, "it causes them to float around."

And speaking of incredible, in...

NOVEMBER

...elections are held nationwide, giving the Republican party (motto:
"There's Plenty More Where Bob Dole Came From!") a chance to show its
tactical skill.  With every poll showing that the public is
overwhelmingly sick of the sex scandal and does not want to hear one
more word about the sex scandal, shrewd Republican strategists elect to
spend millions of dollars to broadcast TV commercials harping on:  the
sex scandal!  This does not sit well with the estimated 83 Americans who
actually vote in the election; they resoundingly reject the Republican
message, forcing Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker of the House of
Representatives to pursue a long-postponed career in the private sector
as a stocky person with an annoying voice.  But the biggest election
surprise is in Minnesota, where Jesse "The Body" Ventura is elected by
voters seeking a leader who can not only grasp the issues, but also give
them a noogie.

Most observers see the election results as a resounding victory for Bill
Clinton.  But rather than gloating, the President, knowing that he will
need bipartisan support to achieve his legislative goals in the
remaining two years, graciously invites Katarina Witt to the Oval
Office.

On the scandal front, the President finally settles with Paula Jones,
who gets $850,000 and a two-year appointment as Secretary of Education.
Meanwhile Kenneth Starr is grilled before the House Judiciary Committee,
which finally concludes, after 12 hours of testimony, that it has a sore
butt.

In another presidential scandal, tests of DNA taken from descendants of
Thomas Jefferson prove that the third President of the United States did
indeed, as many historians have long suspected, have sex with Monica
Lewinsky.

In show business, Esther plays her final Rolle.

In the ongoing War On Drugs, a Colombian air force plane lands in Fort
Lauderdale carrying -- this is a true story -- 1,600 pounds of cocaine.
Elsewhere in South Florida, Wayne Huizenga, in a move that some
observers believe may not sit well with the fans, sells the Marlins to
Fidel Castro.  Xavier Suarez submits a petition calling for a new
mayoral election, although questions are raised about the petition's
validity when a sharp-eyed election officials notices that the first
signature is "Ponce de Leon."  Miami's new arena, under construction,
catches on fire, but everybody agrees this is no big deal because we're
just going to build another one in a couple of years anyway.

On Wall Street, America Online merges with Netscape in a deal that
involves $4 billion in cash and 35,000 photographs of Dr. Laura
Schlessinger naked.  The stock market soars to record highs, and small
investors start to trickle back in.

But the big story of November occurs on the international front, when
the United States finally gets sick and tired of having its chain yanked
by Saddam Hussein and decides to take care of him once and for all,
using military force.  After Iraq repeatedly refuses to allow weapons
inspections, a determined President Clinton orders U.S. bombers into the
air.  Just as they reach the Iraqi border, the President receives an
urgent fax from Saddam stating:  "I'M SORRY!"  So the President orders
the bombers to turn back.  Then he receives another urgent fax from
Saddam stating:  "NOT!"  So he orders the bombers to turn around and
head for Iraq again.  Then he gets another urgent fax from Saddam
stating:  "NO, REALLY, I MEAN IT THIS TIME!"  So he orders the bombers
to turn around again.  Then he receives yet another urgent fax from
Saddam stating:  "GOTCHA!  HA HA!"  So he orders the bombers to turn
around again, but by this time they have run out of fuel and are forced
to ditch in the Persian Gulf.  The White House hails this as a major
foreign-policy victory and the President celebrates by inviting Katarina
Witt to the Oval Office.  And speaking of celebrating, in...

DECEMBER

...NASA, elated over the publicity generated by the John Glenn shuttle
mission, announces plans to send up the Spice Girls.  Elsewhere in
science, medical researchers at Harvard University announce that they
have isolated the gene that causes rich guys to try to fly around the
world in balloons, fueling hopes that some day there will be a cure.

In scandal news, Kenneth Starr, under intense pressure to wrap up his
investigation, purchases a new device called the Subpoen-A-Matic, which
enables him to issue subpoenas to Webster Hubbell at the rate of 45 per
hour, nearly double his previous rate.  Meanwhile, in a special marathon
House Judiciary Committee hearing into the ethical implications of
impeachment, James Carville bites William Bennett in the leg.

As the Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on impeachment, President
Clinton goes on national television to issue what is, according to the
most accurate data available, his 2,356th sincere apology, in which he
states that he is "a very, very, very, very, very bad person who has
not, technically, committed any crime."  A White House spokesperson
notes that this apology contains five "very"s, which is two more than
the President's previous remorse record.

Nevertheless, the Judiciary Committee approves four articles of
impeachment:  two for perjury, one for obstruction of justice and one
for "way too much hugging."  The matter then goes to the whole House,
where Democrats desperately work for a compromise censure resolution,
under which Clinton would remain in office, but the White House would be
required to switch to inflatable interns.  The deal falls through when
Clinton refuses to admit that he committed perjury, offering instead to
issue another apology in which, according to a White House spokesperson,
"the President would, for the first time, bite both his lower AND upper
lip."

So the House votes to impeach Clinton, thus paving the way for a trial
in the Senate to be presided over, in accordance with the U.S.
Constitution, by Judge Wapner.  As the massive historic significance of
these events finally begins to sink in, the American public purchases
record quantities of yo-yos.

Elsewhere on the political front, Ross Perot, in a move that has major
implications for the next presidential campaign, confirms published
reports that he is the voice of the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

In sports, the Nevada Athletic Commission issues a boxing license to
Charles Manson.

The presses stop forever for Tropic.

But December's biggest story involves foreign affairs.  On the evening
of December 16, in a move that White House spokespersons insist has
nothing at all to do with the impeachment process, a grim-faced Bill
Clinton goes on television to announce that, in response to repeated and
flagrant defiance by Iraq, he has ordered massive air strikes against
the offices of Kenneth Starr.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Israeli and Palestinian leaders observe
the one-month anniversary of the signing of the latest historic peace
accord by formally setting it on fire.

Keith Richards enlists in the Colombian air force.

On Wall Street, all the major corporations in the world announce that
they are merging into one single gigantic company with a name so long
that nobody will be able to read it without going blind.  This exciting
news propels stock prices to record levels, and financial experts agree
that they will probably keep going up forever and make everybody rich,
especially small investors who jump in now.

"Here li'l 'vestor!" they say.  "C'mon li'l 'vestor 'vestor 'vestor..."

         * * *

And thus 1998 goes out pretty much the way it came in, leaving us to
face 1999, which is the year in which we need to fix the Y2K "Millennium
Bug" problem, or at midnight on Dec. 31 all the computers in the world
are going to go insane and civilization will collapse.  Although I'm not
sure anybody would notice.  Anyway, happy new year.

Copyright  1998 The Miami Herald
http://www.herald.com/insouthflorida/archive/98dec27/docs/revu.htm






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